Skip to comments.16 People On Things They Couldn’t Believe About America Until They Moved Here
Posted on 11/13/2013 9:34:38 AM PST by Responsibility2nd
A lot of people around the world have ideas of what America is like, possibly thanks to Hollywood, or their local news channels, and maybe from what theyve heard from families and friends. But then, they came here, to the grand old United States and their minds exploded. Taken from Quora.
I am originally from Bangladesh and here are a few things that I find hard to explain to peeps back home.
- Fruits and vegetables are way more expensive than meat and poultry.
- That, generally speaking, the poor is more obese than the rich.
- A lot of couples adopt children, sometimes in spite of having their own, and treat them exactly like their own. (To me, this alone is a marker of a great people)
- By and large, people do not carry cash.
- That you address your boss (and some of your professors) by some abbreviated variation of their first name. And that applies to pretty much everyone, regardless of how much older they are than you.
- Parents can get arrested for physically punishing their children.
- Severe poverty, homelessness, etc, no matter how limited, actually exist. Even in America.
- A name as common and as easy to pronounce as mine is almost invariably incomprehensible to most Americans.
- America is literally HUGE. My home country is roughly the size of Florida, one of the fifty states.
- In spite of the society being openly hedonistic and liberal, the social norms and standards still have very strong conservative religious influences.
- People don’t really care about the FIFA World Cup even though USA qualifies.
- The importance of credit rating/ credit score.
- Return policy.
- The history behind Thanksgiving.
- Black Friday and the frenzy associated with it.
- Amazingly friendly, hospitable and helpful people. Yet, a very conveniently private lifestyle.
- That, American foreign policy is a very inaccurate reflector of public consensus.
- Grinding. The dance form.
- That you cannot purchase alcohol unless you are 21 but can purchase a gun if you are 18.
Okay, so I know that there’s loads of answers here, and I couldn’t read all of them, so I’d probably be repeating some points. I’ll mention that I’m from India and that I’m writing from an Indian point of view, and what struck me as unusual based on what notions I’d built up after watching so much Hollywood and TV series.
- Dependence on GPS – I knew people who went to office everyday since the past 5 years and could not tell their way without a GPS. It was amazing! I made some friends there and they were so impressed that I could tell my way back to their home without help from a GPS.
- Cashless Society – Coming from India, where we just need cash because cards are not accepted at most places, I was really surprised by the cashless system in the US. Every place accepts credit cards. Even a small picnic I went to, which had an entry fee, had some sort of mobile app and a device attached to accept credit cards. It was amazing.
- EMIs for everything – It’s like the people there live on EMIs. Cars, phones, everything. And even the lower middle class can afford this stuff. It’s like everyone has an iPhone. Which also reminds me of the extremely bad coverage that AT&T provided. I’m used to better coverage in India. Almost forgot! Worst part was being charged for incoming. Calls and messages! It’s like a nightmare for Indians.
- Baby Car seats, Strollers – The extremely confusing rules and regulations that pervade America were already too much, but the emphasis on car seats and strollers was something new. I don’t think there’s any such thing as a car seat in India. And parents carry their children mostly, most people can’t afford strollers here. Also the cost of childcare in US is astounding because of these things that keep adding up.
- Tipping – Enough has been said about this, but I hated it too, so I’ll include it. Specially for services like a haircut. So I pay you for cutting my hair…..and then I tip you because you were gracious enough to cut my hair?!
- Public Toilets – Indian public toilets are usually in unmentionable conditions, and this was a refreshing change. Specially because half the stuff was automated. I remember thinking at first, that Americans are so lazy, they don’t want to flush their toilets.
- Cashiers talking to you – Every cashier will greet you with “How are you today? You find everything okay?” with a smile, and you’re quite thrown off the first few times. Also, I had this really great cashier at Harris Teeter give me discounts because I always checked out at his counter :) Really nice people! In general also, people were extremely polite, and many just complimented you too!
- The above point reminds me, that Americans find it very odd if people use different words than them, like British English for eg. people looked at me funny when I asked where the “Chemist” is (Drug Store). Biscuit (Cookie), Billing Counter (Cashier), Coriander (Cilantro), Petrol (Gas) are others.
- Awesome Traffic – Coming from India, I found it amazing the way traffic behaved without any intervention from traffic policemen. Just everyone following the rules. It was a bit bad in NYC, but not even comparable to where I live right now (Kanpur, India). People don’t try to cut you off. People let pedestrians cross. Also, the parallel parking is really efficient! The roads are so well maintained, and the scenery is always beautiful.
- Speed limits – The US has really high speed limits for us people following the metric system. The highest speed limits are around 75mph or 121 kmph which seemed like gross overspeeding to me. But it contributed to great drives!
- General Safety – I was travelling in Manhattan, late night Subway, when a group of loud, drunk people entered, and we were kinda scared. Immediately at the next stop, two NYPD officers entered, and stood at the doors until they were in the car. It was awesome! I felt pretty safe overall, which I didn’t even expect to.
- Quality of chocolate – It’s just not as good. Sorry folks, but a Hershey bar is the most overrated thing I ever tried. And the Kit Kat was horrible. The chocolate was oily. Yes, oily. I have no idea why. (This reminds of my trip to Walmart. I knew it was big. I just didn’t imagine it would be this big! The astounding variety of pretty much everything is just overwhelming)
- Incredible wastefulness – I was aghast at the amount of stuff people wasted every single day. Food, electricity, water, paper…in India, we reuse stuff until it can only be thrown away. But on the positive side, recycling is big there, so I guess it is mitigated in part.
- Obsession with fitness – I saw loads of people running/jogging on the sidewalks. A lot of people I knew cycled or ran marathons for 50 miles plus. This was a stark contrast though, to the average person I saw who was usually overweight. (I attributed it to insane portion sizes, as mentioned in an answer. I always ate the same sandwich for lunch and dinner)
- McDonald’s not upto the mark – This was a shocker for me. McDonald’s is like one of the best known brands of America, and the quality was arguably worse than what I get here. And I’m non-vegetarian. The burger doesn’t resemble it’s pictures at all. One (really bad) choice for vegetarians, and that was it. I went there once, and didn’t want to go again. On the other hand, Starbucks seemed totally worth the hype for me. They have great coffee.
- Patriotism – The flag was everywhere. Literally. I came to know students are supposed to pledge allegiance to their flag since Kindergarten.! (I can’t fathom how they pronounce allegiance). On the other hand, they are blissfully unaware of the rest of the world (A high school kid thought Taj Mahal is in Washington DC). But I loved how all students were involved in some sort of extra curricular activities or the other.
- The awkward public transport experience – It’s just so bad I can’t even say anything. (Not the big cities) My outings were severely cut short due to this. Cabs were insanely expensive. And I could kill cab drivers who asked for tips on top of that.
- Monotonous Cities, Cookie-Cutter Homes – This is my personal view, but the Downtown areas of almost all cities looked similar. Give or take a few things. The suburbs all looked the same. I was so weirded out by the Cookie Cutter Homes, which all looked like the same person had built it. Also, it was amusing to know that all the construction was wooden. Sound traveled too much. And I hated the weird landscaping. It seemed the whole country is sloped. Even apartments were built on slopes. I found it very funny. In India, each city looks different. Vastly different!
- Street Performers – The street performers around Union Square, Times Square were really entertaining. And I was amazed how much money they collected. I saw people give 20s. I doubt Indian street performers would ever see that kind of money.
- Religion – I always thought that America must be very laid-back about religion, like Europe, but that was not true. And one of the weirdest things I encountered was a Jewish person (in the black suit) preaching to us on the subway to believe in God, and Apocalypse or something, and giving us “Trillion dollar” notes with this stuff written on it.
14 other takes at the link. Things we take for granted freak out those who come here.
Each one of those states has its own constitution, legal standards, and tax policies.
I knew it. There HAD to be complaining about guuuuuuuuuns!
And in my opinion, the idiot MADD 21-year-old law is nonsense.
Can you believe it???
A common theme....
Obesity and food portion It is easy to find obese people in USA. Some people are so obese that they require a special electric scooter to carry them around. This sighting can be seen easily in Walmart where obese people use scooters to shop more
And yes, typical food portion in America is humongous. I can easily share one meal with another guy and do not feel hungry for hours to come.
lolol. They find that amazing?
The woman who mentioned cell phone coverage was right. After paying out the wazoo for the privilege of an iPhone on AT&T, In the UK I pay £30 a month for a Galaxy S3 with unlimited text and data and coverage in Western Europe is 100 time better than I ever had in the states
Here you don’t pay for incoming calls or texts, only the person making the call or text pays.
Had a friend from Israel over - he had visited most of Europe, but couldn't stop talking about how immense America is (flying coast-to-coast is not the same feeling you get when looking at a map).
I hear that most people in America only use one side of a sheet of toilet paper. Maybe Sheryl Crow is right!
Irish friends wanted to come over and hang out with crazy American rednecks, tear through mud, swamps and woods in a humongous American SUV while drinking beer, and go to a steakhouse in a humongous American Cadillac. That they did, sent pictures to all their friends and relatives, and had a great time in a place they’d never really even heard of but loved enough to want to come back again. America is huge, they said it too, it just goes and goes.
Really nice people! In general also, people were extremely polite, and many just complimented you too!
After living in Japan for 14 years before returning in 2002, I had exactly the opposite impression-- people were so rude!
The UN building in NYC might qualify and they want more land.
That’s just what NYC needs, more third world miscreants with diplomatic immunity.
The food portion comment is also a pet peeve of Mrs.JimSea. The lack of world knowledge is common to both USA and Thailand where geography was not taught when she was in school. The traffic is very orderly and polite here in comparison to Thailand or Southeast Asia in total. Most of the other observations are dead on.
This guy misses the irony in his points......
Yes, you can buy guns without very much of a background check. When I was driving around yesterday I saw a guy walking out of a gun store with a bag, possibly enjoying his purchase of two new pistols. It was great!
People really are afraid of socialism. This seems to be especially true the less they know about it, or believe it means turning their car in to the state. It also turns into fear of Obamacare being some sort of socialist plot, which is hilarious.
He thinks owning guns is great - yet he thinks socialism is also great.
If he only knew Obama not only wants Socialism in our healthcare but he also wants Socialism to force us to turn in - not our cars - but our GUNS to the state.
And about that turning in our cars to the state. That is in fact the goal of Obama’s brand of socialism. It began with cash for clunkers and the bailout and takeover of GM. Add in the money they give you to buy a Volt and the Unions and the CAFE standards and a thousand other regulations and you end up with what? That’s right; Socialism in our auto industry.
Yeah, I’ve heard the US lags way behind Europe and Japan in cell phone technology.
I don’t know if that’s complaining about guns or the bizarre “phased adulthood” we practice in America. It is really goofy that we make drinking the “final stage” of being an adult and it’s so dramatically delayed from things like buying guns, serving in the military, entering contracts, getting married and driving.
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